clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The good, the bad, and the ugly from the 49ers frustrating loss to Washington

There was a little good, a bit bad, and a lot that was ugly for San Francisco on Sunday.

Washington Football Team v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

After every San Francisco 49ers game this season, there has been enough good to win but too much bad to overcome. That’s been the theme of this year. The more the season has gone on, the more ugly it has gotten for the Niners. Because of that, we’re changing it up today and going with the good, bad, and the ugly from San Francisco’s loss to Washington. A loss in which Shanahan called it the most frustrating loss as a head coach.

Before the game started, offensive line coach John Benton was quarantined from the team after he tested positive for COVID-19. That news broke about 90 minutes before kickoff. One play into the game, the 49ers lost Deebo Samuel to a hamstring injury. It was already “one of those days” before the game was underway.

The good

Aiyuk finished with ten receptions for 119 yards on Sunday. He could’ve had 150 yards had his quarterback hit him in stride on a few passes. In the past five games, Aiyuk has 36 catches for 495 yards and three touchdowns. That production has happened with a backup quarterback and against some of the top secondaries in the NFL and best cornerbacks. Aiyuk had a 10-yard punt return as well, where he broke a couple of tackles, and you saw a “fight” in him that you don’t see from anyone else as a punt returner. Aiyuk is a star.

The 49ers' defense held Washington to under 200 yards and without a touchdown. That should be all you need to know, but the numbers are impressive. Per RDSM, Washington’s EPA/play was -0.31 (San Francisco’s was -0.39), they had a success rate of 33%, which league average is right around 45% and a first down rate of only 21%. Washington couldn’t sustain anything against the Niners defense.

Terry McLaurin is a budding young star, and he was held to two receptions for 24 yards. Washington went 0-for-2 in both of their red-zone trips and was 3-for-15 on third downs. Sunday’s effort from the 49ers' defense was tremendous. They even spotted the 49ers' offense a turnover.

The bad

Aside from Aiyuk, none of the pass-catchers were noticeable. Kendrick Bourne finished with three receptions for 42 yards. He had a 35-yard play near the end of the game negated by a penalty, but Bourne also committed a false start in the first half to turn a 3rd & 9 play into 3rd & 14. Bourne had a pair of drops and was tackled a yard short on the final fourth down play. He may have gotten the first with an accurate pass, but Bourne ran a 10-yard route on 4th & 12.

Richie James had a quiet three reception, 33-yard day, and Ross Dwelley will be remembered more for his missed blocks than a 14-yard reception. Jordan Reed had two receptions for 13 yards on five targets. That doesn’t help, either. You were never going to replace George Kittle’s production, but it’s evident that there’s no security blanket. The passing game is Aiyuk, and that’s it.

The receiving core needed someone to step up in Samuel’s absence, and that didn’t happen. While we’re on the subject of missed blocks, Kyle Juszczyk continues to have arguably his worst season blocking in a contract year. Juice and Bourne are both unrestricted free agents after this season.

The 49ers' situational football on offense has been a disaster as of late, and that continued on Sunday. The offense only converted four of their 15 third-down conversions. On early downs, the offense’s success rate was 46%. On late downs, that number plummeted to 29%. This felt like a game where the 49ers had success on the ground and could get into manageable third downs.

The issue was whenever they dropped back to throw on early downs; it felt like disaster followed. You’re limited with what you can do as a play-caller when you don’t trust your backup, but he’s a significantly better option than your third-string quarterback. If we didn’t see Beathard Sunday, it’s difficult to imagine we see Mullens get yanked the rest of the season.

The ugly

Deebo left after one play. Raheem Mostert left but returned, as did Jeff Wilson Jr., which led to Tevin Coleman seeing the field. When that happens, for whatever reason, everything goes down the drain. I’m not sure what it is about Coleman, but negative plays happen when he’s on the field.

The worst injury was Fred Warner, who did not return after being evaluated for a concussion, then cleared the protocol, only to remain sidelined due to a stinger. Why are the 49ers so often injured? That’s the million-dollar question. Every game I’ve been to, their opponent stretches each time before they warm up, and the Niners do not. Of course, that’s not to say that’s the sole reason why there have been 126 soft-tissue injuries this year, but I’m sure that’s not the lone area where San Francisco doesn’t do something that other teams do. We don’t know what else that may be.

Mike McGlinchey has some awful habits that he can’t seem to shake. Every week, it seems like there are three to four plays where he gets run over by a defender, gives up a critical sack/holding penalty, is beaten randomly at some other point during the game, or flat out whiffs in pass protection. Considering where he was drafted and how often these plays show up, how can you not be critical of the former first-rounder?

A reporter asked Kyle Shanahan if McGlinchey needs to add weight and get stronger this offseason during the postgame. That’s how bad it’s gotten. Washington has one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, and they were going to have their fair share of wins on the afternoon, but the 49ers couldn’t let those spiral out of control in which the manner they did.

It’s 2nd & 4, and Chase Young gets through the line and forces a Wilson Jr. fumble. The defense holds Washington to a field goal, and the 49ers get the ball back before the half after a Jason Verrett interception. Young recovered a fumble with 58 seconds remaining, where Mullens was holding the ball down around his waist and returned it for a touchdown. After the 49ers got into Washington territory in the third quarter, Mullens threw a backbreaking interception where it looked like he expected Juszczyk to do one thing, and that thing did not happen.

It doesn’t get any uglier than allowing a team to score three times off turnovers and two touchdowns where your defense isn’t on the field. You don’t have much, if any, chance to win, yet the 49ers still did.

The 49ers never got close enough after punting on 4th & 1 with under four minutes to play. If Shanahan didn’t have faith in his offense to gain one yard, then they weren’t scoring a touchdown and converting a two-point conversion against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

This game highlighted the quarterback problem once again. A defense scoring 17 points isn’t sustainable. The most frustrating part about these games is seeing the receivers running open and Mullens missing them. It’s seeing Mullens hold onto the ball, hesitate, and that indecisiveness comes back to haunt him a few seconds later. The offensive line will get a lot of flack for this one because we’ll remember the highlight plays, but the majority of pressure came because Mullens ran into it or did not get rid of the ball in time.

On the sideline, Shanahan continues to show his frustration with the offense's miscues. I can’t fathom a situation where he wants to go through another year of this, which is why a quarterback change isn’t needed. It’s necessary.